In the Veggie Patch: Is the Grass Really Greener on the Other Side? Some Fresh Stop Market shareholders Say YES to Grass-Finished Beef
If you are looking for a good reason to start eating grass-finished beef as opposed to the grain-finished, concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) produced beef available at the grocery, we can give you at least five:
It’s healthier for people. It’s more humane for the cattle. It’s better for the environment. It’s now available through all of New Roots’ Fresh Stop Markets. And like the produce that shareholders get through their Fresh Stop Markets, this grass-finished beef is purchased locally—from Ashbourne Farm in La Grange, Kentucky, with logistical support from Ian Herrick from Louisville Farm to Table.
What makes grass-finished beef better than grain-finished feedlot beef is that cattle are eating their natural diet of grass—from birth to processing—as opposed to the grains they are fed at the end of their lives at large, commercial operations. They also are able to forage in open pastures for that grass, which is a more natural environment for cows and more humane than overcrowded feedlots.
“Grass-finished beef is the equivalent of organic vegetables,” said Ian Herrick, with Louisville Farm to Table, who has been helping New Roots promote the beef at the Markets. “If the reason you don’t like eating conventional beef is because you perceive it to be unhealthy, or you don’t like the way the cows were raised, or being exposed to antibiotics, or cattle that are eating GMO grain, grass finished is your answer to eating a healthier beef.”
He said when cows are fed a diet of grain, they often develop digestive issues.
“This leads to the use of antibiotics,” Herrick said. “Feed grain often contains low-dose antibiotics … which leads to an increase in antibiotic resistance in people, causing them to be less effective.”
In addition to being healthier for the cows, the meat they produce is healthier for people to eat.
“It’s lower in total fat and calories and higher in antioxidants,” Herrick said. “When cows eat their natural diet of grass, they don't need those antibiotics, and they build up more Omega-3 fatty acids, more vitamin E and A.”
And if people purchase beef from smaller farmers, there is less reliance on large-scale cattle feeding operations. Herrick said these operations create a lot of methane gas, which has been linked by scientists to global climate change.
He said there is a difference between grass-fed beef and grass-finished beef.
“Grass-fed beef was originally taken to mean it was raised on grass for the entire lifecycle of the cow, but then people started calling cows who are grain finished, grass fed. What conventional beef farmers do is raise cows on grass until a certain point and then feed them grain at the end of their life (to get it to put on weight quickly),” he said. “So people had to start using the term ‘grass finished.’ Grass finished means they have never been fed anything but grass, no grains.”
The grass-finished beef available through the Fresh Stop Markets is $6 a pound, and is being sold at cost.
“One reason grass finished is a higher price is not that they are trying to make a healthier product, it’s because it takes longer and it’s a lot more work for the farmer,” he said. “It’s work in that they have to graze their cattle in different parts of their land and at the same time, they have to monitor what is growing and if it is the proper grass or clover for them to develop. A drought could be devastating if you are a grass-finished farmer. Some people have to feed their cows grain at times, although true grass-finished farmers have storage of dried grasses that they feed their cows. And that is what Kentucky farmers do in the winters.
Fresh Stop Markets are home to many vegans, who have weighed in on the addition. “I think it is better than buying beef at the grocery store knowing how chemically processed it can be,” added New Roots marketing and PR intern Nikki D’Ambrosio, who is a vegan. “I know some people believe their bodies need a higher protein intake—like my brother—and get this through eating beef. However, I feel it is better to eat humanely-raised meat, if you are going to eat it at all.”
Shareholders can now order beef at the same time they order their share. Just go to the New Roots’ website and click on your market under the “Ordering” tab, and you will see a place where you can add beef to your order.